What will all of these understudies do for an encore to the Mets’ most timely fill-in performance of the season?
Six straight hits, five of them by players who weren’t supposed to be everyday players for the Mets if not for the latest team-wide rash of injuries, helped them rally for five runs in the seventh inning on Friday night to erase the unmistakable gloomy feeling of earlier in the night when they trailed by six runs.
No.8 starter Rafael Montero was agonizingly uneconomical again until finally getting tagged along with reliever Josh Smoker in a six-run fourth, making the Mets probably wish they’d called for the team’s second consecutive rained-out game when they had the chance all day.
Instead, they opened this home stand with a wholly unexpected and significant comeback, an 8-7 win over the Marlins that improved them to 13-15 despite the injuries only continuing to mount for Terry Collins’ patchwork club.
Stinko de Mayo, you thought?
How about back-from-the-brinko de Mayo? (I know, sorry about that).
“I think it’s a huge lift,” Collins said. “It tells you, and we went through this the last couple of years, you gotta be resilient.”
With more wins like this one, maybe that last part will become the official rallying cry of 2017, just as “Ya Gotta Believe” famously was more than four decades ago.
Of course, the day began ominously again with the Mets’ ever-expanding disabled list incredibly sucking up yet another regular, as Travis d’Arnaud finally landed on the shelf – yes, for the latest time in his injury-riddled career – after trying to fight his way through a wonky right wrist for more than two weeks.
The catcher’s bone bruise, which necessitated a splint before the game, likely will keep d’Arnaud out of the lineup beyond the 10-day span.
“It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but we know from the past, it is a big deal…It won’t just be 10 days,” Collins said. “It seems like just when he starts to get it going, something happens.”
Sure, d’Arnaud had dropped the bar pretty low last year with a terrible offensive showing. He still had already matched his 2016 home run total (four) and exceeded by one last year’s RBI figure (16-15) through the first month-plus.
His absence amounts to further bad timing for both a depleted lineup and for a player with a laundry list of ailments keeping him unavailable for long stretches throughout his career.
So yes, Mets fans continue to lament the abundance of injuries besetting this franchise once again. Most notable of those involve their two brightest stars – $ 110 million slugger Yoenis Cespedes and ace Noah Syndergaard. And that doesn’t even count captain David Wright, who has played 75 games over the past three seasons due to multiple serious ailments.
Thus, Collins replied gruffly “we do not” when asked beforehand if the Mets have any more of a definitive timetable on how long they will be without Cespedes. That only seemingly makes it more ominous that his hamstring blowout will prevent him from playing for a lengthier period than the Mets have let on.
And yet, five wins in seven games without Cespedes suddenly have kept the Mets within striking distance of loaded Washington in the NL East. The remainder of the lineup even finally has awoken with an ongoing string of games scoring no fewer than five runs throughout his absence.
“It’s tough to lose a guy like that in your lineup,” said Bronx product T.J. Rivera, who stroked an early solo homer and then the tying two-run double in the seventh. “We have so many great players on this team that can put together good at-bats consistently, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately as a team.”
While future shortstop Amed Rosario looks like he could add another bat as he continues to scorch the ball at Triple-A Las Vegas with a .386/.434/.505 slash line into the weekend, Asdrubal Cabrera also continues to be hobbled by a balky knee, necessitating Jose Reyes to slide over from third base and start Friday at his former position.
A Mets source even confirmed the organization has discussed having Reyes and Cabrera switch positions, at least temporarily. That move certainly doesn’t appear imminent, with Reyes offering that he hasn’t been approached by anyone about such a plan.
(His failure to keep Martin Prado’s dribbler up the middle on the infield, by the way, opened the door for Miami’s six runs in the fourth).
Still, both Reyes and the pinch-hitting Cabrera laced key hits in the seventh, along with knocks by d’Arnaud’s backup Rene Rivera, once-buried Michael Conforto and Rivera, a Triple-A call-up now manning first base.
Wilmer Flores, who had been 1-for-23 against righties before opening the uprising against Brad Ziegler with a single, then was walked by Kyle Barraclough to force home the go-ahead run.
“We have a lot of guys who can get the job done,” Flores said. “It was good to come back like that.”
All of it was necessary because Montero, a former blue-chip pitching prospect, failed again to finally step forward in his latest rotation chance as the fill-in for Syndergaard. He now has been rocked for 30 runs in barely 29 innings in 16 big-league appearances (four starts) this year and last.
With few options, Collins still indicated the No.8 starter in a seven-deep rotation is likely to get another chance to start next week.
While Montero wasn’t the one to seize the spotlight on Friday, however, the Mets ultimately had plenty of other understudies willing and able to play a leading role.